While Jeter’s offensive line was better in 2011 than it was in 2010, all fielding metrics consulted for this piece indicate that his defense tumbled from what was already considered a weakness. Thus, his fWAR has had a three year fall from 7.1 in 2009 to 2.7 in 2010 and then to 2.3 in 2011. This is all somewhat relative to the fact that even at age 37, Jeter was as good or better than half of the other shortstops around baseball. But history shows us that Jeter is in the full decline stage of his career and there is serious question to how long he can adequately play. Consider the following chart culled from Fangraphs.com on other shortstops historically. Click on the chart to see it better:
I probably used too many examples and all the lines make it hard to separate the players. Jeter’s age 37 season was almost dead on to what Pee Wee Reese did in his age 37 season and was slightly higher than Cal Ripken’s age 37 season. Reese fell off the table starting with his age 38 season while Ripken had a slightly more productive season at age 38 than he did at 37. Barry Larkin and Luis Aparicio scored no value at age 37 but both rose a bit in the next two seasons. Larkin played 145 games at age 38 but Aparicio was limited to a role player by that age and garnered value in small playing times. It is hard to compare Jeter to Ozzie Smith because Smith was a different player. Smith’s value was mostly on the defensive side. But Smith’s offense fell off by age 37 and his age 38 season was his last as a full time shortstop.
Cal Ripken, Jr. had one more decent season at the age of 38 and then fell off sharply after that. And, of course, Ripken was playing third by then. Ozzie Smith had value right through his age 39 season, but again, that value was in his defense, something Jeter is not going to be able to duplicate.
The history of these Hall of Fame shortstops shows us that there is the possibility that Jeter can have one more productive season. But even that is a 50/50 proposition. The history also shows that for Jeter to be effective beyond this coming season is a complete long shot and unlikely. Despite the flashes we saw in the second half last season, history is not on Derek Jeter’s side.